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News articles on environmental economics
Mongabay.com news articles on environmental economics in blog format. Updated regularly.
(04/22/2010) The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age. Today we speak of preserving world biodiversity, of saving the 'lungs of the planet', of mitigating global climate change. No longer are humans over-reaching in just one region, but we are overreaching the whole planet, stretching ecological systems to a breaking point. While we are aware of the issues that threaten the well-being of life on this planet, including our own, how are we progressing on solutions?
Video: black list uncovers least transparent companies
(04/14/2010) Corporate Responsibility Magazine has released its first annual list of the 30 least transparent companies, dubbed the 'black list'. Looking at corporations traded on the US stock market in the Russell 1,000—the top 1,000 stocks in the Russell 3,000 list—the magazine pinpointed the bottom 30, exposing those companies that choose to hide in the dark.
Cochabamba Climate Conference: the Coca Contradiction
(04/11/2010) In the high stakes game of geopolitics, the small and economically disadvantaged Andean nation of Bolivia has little clout. Now, however, the country’s indigenous president Evo Morales wants to establish more of a significant voice on the world stage. Recently, he has turned himself into something of a spokesperson on the issue of climate change. Decrying the failure of world leaders to come to a satisfactory agreement on global warming, he is intent on shaming the Global North into addressing climate change. Whatever Bolivia lacks in terms of political and economic muscle, Morales would like to offset through skilled use of moral persuasion.
Scientists: 60 million USD needed to gauge the global threat to biodiversity
(04/08/2010) One of the greatest barriers to saving the world's biodiversity is simply a lack of knowledge: to date less than 50,000 species have been surveyed by the IUCN Red List regarding their threat level, while the vast majority of the world's species are left unanalyzed especially fungi, plants, fish, reptiles, and insects and other invertebrates. To address this problem, some of the world's top biologists have proposed a 60-million US dollar program they dub the 'barometer of biodiversity' to gather a representative sample of all taxons.
Unilever backtracks: may purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas
(04/07/2010) The world's biggest buyer of palm oil, Unilever, says it will again purchase palm oil from PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesian company Sinar Mas, if allegations about deforestation and peatland destruction prove untrue, or if Sinar Mas shows it is addressing the issue. Last December, the food and cosmetic giant, Unilever, suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas after an independent audit—spurred by a 2008 Greenpeace report—showed that the Indonesian company was involved in the illegal destruction of rainforests and peatlands. Yet the company now seems to be signaling that the contract is back on the table even as it touts its sustainability efforts to the public.
History repeats itself: the path to extinction is still paved with greed and waste
(04/05/2010) As a child I read about the near-extinction of the American bison. Once the dominant species on America's Great Plains, I remember books illustrating how train-travelers would set their guns on open windows and shoot down bison by the hundreds as the locomotive sped through what was left of the wild west. The American bison plunged from an estimated 30 million to a few hundred at the opening of the 20th century. When I read about the bison's demise I remember thinking, with the characteristic superiority of a child, how such a thing could never happen today, that society has, in a word, 'progressed'. Grown-up now, the world has made me wiser: last month the international organization CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) struck down a ban on the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. The story of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is a long and mostly irrational one—that is if one looks at the Atlantic bluefin from a scientific, ecologic, moral, or common-sense perspective.
Wildlife Management Areas in Africa require changes to become sustainable
(03/29/2010) Wildlife Management Areas in Africa were created to serve a dual purpose. By granting local communities usage rights over wildlife in designated areas, African countries hoped both to allow communities to benefit from their wildlife while taking an active part in conservation. A new paper in published in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science outlines the current problems facing WMAs, using Tanzania as an example, and recommends possible solutions.
Analysis shows Borneo can say 'no' to coal power
(03/17/2010) Plans for a coal power plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo have run into stiff opposition. Environmentalists say the coal plant could damage extensive coral reef systems, pollute water supplies, open rainforests to mining, and contribute to global climate change, undercutting Sabah's image as a 'green' destination. The federal government contends that the coal plant is necessary to fix Sabah's energy problems. However, a recent energy audit by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California Berkeley shows that pollution-intensive coal doesn't have to be in Sabah's future.
Sharks swim safe around the Maldives
(03/11/2010) Sharks that dwell in the Maldives can breathe a sigh of relief: the island nation has declared 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean a safe-haven for sharks, banning shark fishing as well as any trade in shark fins.
Consumption habits cause rich countries to outsource emissions
(03/08/2010) Over a third of the greenhouse gas emissions related to the consumption of goods in wealthy nations actually occur in developing countries, according to a new analysis by researchers with the Carnegie Institution. Annually, each person if the United States outsources 2.5 tons of carbon due to consumption habits, most frequently in China. In Europe the figure of 'outsourced' emissions rises to 4 tons per person.
Profit of biggest companies would be cut by a third if forced to pay for environmental damage from operations
(02/19/2010) Profits of the world's 3,000 largest companies would be cut by $2.2 trillion per year if they were forced to pay for environmental damage from their operations, according to an upcoming U.N. report detailed by The Guardian. The study, conducted by Trucost, a consultancy, and scheduled to be released this summer, estimates that pollution and degradation of natural resources by the world's 3,000 largest companies amount to six to seven percent of total revenue, or roughly one-third of profits.
Consumers fail at identifying green companies
(02/17/2010) An article today in New Scientist shows that American consumers have a difficult time correctly identifying green companies, often confusing 'greenwashing' for true green credentials or not bestowing enough credit where credit is truly due. By combining data from Earthsense, which polled 30,000 Americans about on their views of 'green' companies, and Trucost which assesses companies global environmental impact, New Scientist was able to discover just how confused American consumers are when it comes to identifying 'green'.
Expedition to photograph world's rarest cetacean threatened by lack of funding
(02/11/2010) Little known beyond the waters of the Gulf of California, the world's smallest cetacean (a group including whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is hanging on by a thread. The vaquita—which in Spanish means 'little cow'—has recently gained the dubious distinction of not only being the world's smallest cetacean, but the also the world's rarest. In 2006 it was announced that the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was likely extinct, and conservationists fear the Critically Endangered 'little cow' is next. An expedition for this year is set to identify vaquita individuals, but even this is threatened by lack of funding.
Could special bonds fund the green revolution and stabilize the climate?
(02/02/2010) There is no question that governments around the world are moving slowly and sluggishly to combat climate change, especially when placed against the measures recommended by climate scientists. Only a handful of nations have actually cut overall greenhouse gas emissions, and the past couple decades have seen emissions rise rapidly worldwide as nations like India and China industrialize while Brazil and Indonesia continue massive deforestation. Global temperatures are rising in concert (though with natural fluctuations): the past decade is the warmest on record. After the failure of Copenhagen this past December to produce an ambitious and binding treaty, many are wondering if the world will ever address the threat of climate change or if future generations are set to live in a world far different—and more volatile—than the one we currently enjoy.
China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy
(02/01/2010) This year China has become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world's most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world's most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.
Will it be possible to feed nine billion people sustainably?
(01/28/2010) Sometime around 2050 researchers estimate that the global population will level-out at nine billion people, adding over two billion more people to the planet. Since, one billion of the world's population (more than one in seven) are currently going hungry—the largest number in all of history—scientists are struggling with how, not only to feed those who are hungry today, but also the additional two billion that will soon grace our planet. In a new paper in Science researchers make recommendations on how the world may one day feed nine billion people—sustainably.
New report: world must change model of economic growth to avert environmental disaster
(01/25/2010) For decades industrialized nations have measured their success by the size of their annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product), i.e. economic growth. The current economic model calls for unending growth—as well as ever-rising consumerism—just to remain stable. However, a new report by the New Economics Foundation (nef) states that if countries continue down a path of unending growth, the world will be unable to tackle climate change and other environmental issues.
Photos: park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil
(01/19/2010) In the midst of a seesaw political battle to save Yasuni National Park from oil developers, scientists have announced that this park in Ecuador houses more species than anywhere else in South America—and maybe the world. "Yasuní is at the center of a small zone where South America's amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity," Dr. Clinton Jenkins of the University of Maryland said in a press release. "We dubbed this area the 'quadruple richness center.'"
Saving biodiversity 'on the same scale' as climate change: German Chancellor
(01/11/2010) In a kick-off event for the UN's Year of Biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, compared the importance of saving biodiversity to stopping climate change.
Guyana to increase oversight of gold mining under deal to save forests with Norway
(12/21/2009) As apart of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.
Canada at Copenhagen: "delay, obstruction, and total inaction"
(12/21/2009) Canada was the biggest obstructer at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, according to the Climate Action Network (CAN) an organization made-up of 450 NGOs. On Friday CAN awarded Canada the 'Colossal Fossil Award' for doing the most to obstruct an ambitious climate change agreement and for doing the least to mitigate climate change.
Bolivia's President blames capitalism for global warming
(12/18/2009) The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, clearly frustrated with the progression of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today blamed capitalism for global warming.
Uninhabited tropical island paradise seeks REDD funding to save it from loggers
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
US moves talks forward in Copenhagen with pledge of 100 billion fund, now it's China's turn
(12/17/2009) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought some much need good news to Copenhagen with her. In an announcement this morning, Clinton announced that the United States was ready to join other industrialized nations in mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid for developing and vulnerable nations by 2020 at the Climate Change conference.
Is the US sinking climate change talks at Copenhagen?
(12/16/2009) While it's difficult to know what's truly going on inside the Bella Center at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a pattern seems to be emerging of the United States being unwilling to compromise on, well, anything.
Pope Benedict: environmental crisis requires review of world's economic model
(12/15/2009) Pope Benedict XVI has released a message linking world peace with preserving the environment for the World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1st 2010. In it Benedict calls for a "long-term review" of the world's current economic model, including "[moving] beyond a purely consumerist mentality" and encouraging a more "sober lifestyle".
New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring
(12/11/2009) A new poll, taken in the midst of the scandal involving hacked emails from climate change scientists, shows that a significant majority (70 percent) of Americans agree with climatologists that the earth is warming.
REDD may miss up to 80 percent of land use change emissions
(12/11/2009) The political definition of 'forest' used in REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) threatens to undermine the program's objective to conserve ecosystems for their ability to sequester carbon, according to a new analysis by the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins. In an analysis of three Indonesian provinces using REDD proposals for carbon accounting, ASB found that REDD may miss up to 80 percent of the actual emissions due to land use change. The carbon accounting problems could be fixed, according to ASB, by expanding REDD's purpose from reducing emissions linked to deforestation (considering the problematic definition of forests) to reducing emission from all land use changes that either release or capture greenhouse gases, including but not limited to forests.
Cheat sheet on climate finance
(12/11/2009) The Global Canopy Project has released a cheat sheet on proposals for financing climate change mitigation.
Obama on global warming and forest protection
(12/10/2009) President of the United States, Barack Obama, was in Oslo, Norway this morning accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in part for promising to bring the United States to the negotiating table on climate change—something he has recently done.
US think-tank: islands affected by global warming should wait for trickle-down money
(12/09/2009) Poor island nations threatened by rising seas should wait for money through trickle-down economics, according to the founder of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Washington-based free-market think tank believes that curbing greenhouse gas emissionss to combat climate change will be too costly to the US and global economies.
Gore, Moon, and Rasmussen attempt to regain trust after 'Danish Text' leak in Copenhagen
(12/09/2009) The head of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon; the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen; and American climate change leader, Al Gore, all attempted to downplay the leak of the 'Danish Text' which has riled developing countries due to portions of its content, such as allowing a climate fund to be controlled by the World Bank, seemingly overturning the Kyoto principle whereby developed countries are held responsible for climate change, and setting higher emission per capita standards for industrialized countries over developing countries even in forty years time.
Bangladesh tops list of most vulnerable countries to climate change
(12/09/2009) According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh is the most vulnerable nation to extreme weather events, which many scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change. From 1990 to 2008, Bangladesh has lost 8,241 lives on average every year due to natural disasters. In addition, rising sea levels also threaten millions of Bangladeshis.
Leaked document in Copenhagen seen as sidelining poor countries
(12/08/2009) A document leaked late in the day at Copenhagen has threatened to further divide developing nations from wealthy countries during the conference in Denmark. The document, labeled as the 'Danish-text', is seen by many as sidelining poor countries by handing over climate financing to the World Bank, requiring developing countries to cut total emissions, and in forty years time still allowing wealthy countries to emit more than developing per capita.
EBay bid to name new shrimp species raises $2,900 for conservation from NBA star
(12/07/2009) Former NBA basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, Luc Longley, has won the EBay auction to name a wild looking red-polka dotted shrimp species. Longley won with a bid of 3,600 Australian dollars (2,900 US dollars): all of the funds go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). He named the shrimp Lebbeus clarehanna as a gift for his daughter, Clare Hanna Longley's fifteenth birthday.
James Hansen says Copenhagen approach "fundamentally wrong" would be better to "reassess"
(12/03/2009) James Hansen, one of the world's foremost climatologists, told the Guardian today that he believes the Copenhagen talks are flawed to the point where failure of the talks may be the best way forward. "The approach that is being talked about is so fundamentally wrong that it would be better to reassess," Hansen said.
Has Canada become the new climate villain (yes, that's right, Canada)?
(12/02/2009) In 2007 American delegates to a climate summit in Bali were booed outright for obstructing a global agreement on climate change. Then in a David versus Goliath moment they were famously scolded by a negotiator from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad. "If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way," Conrad told the American delegates. However, much has changed in two years: the United States, under a new administration, is no longer the climate change pariah. The US has recently announced emissions cuts, negotiated successfully with China on the issue, and will be attending—Obama included—the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen next week. Obama and his team probably don't need to worry about being booed or remonstrated this time around, but that role may instead go to Canada.
Face-to-face with what may be the last of the world's smallest rhino, the Bornean rhinoceros
(12/01/2009) Nothing can really prepare a person for coming face-to-face with what may be the last of a species. I had known for a week that I would be fortunate enough to meet Tam. I'd heard stories of his gentle demeanor, discussed his current situation with experts, and read everything I could find about this surprising individual. But still, walking up to the pen where Tam stood contentedly pulling leaves from the hands of a local ranger, hearing him snort and whistle, watching as he rattled the bars with his blunted horn, I felt like I was walking into a place I wasn't meant to be. As though I was treading on his, Tam's space: entering into a cool deep forest where mud wallows and shadows still linger. This was Tam's world; or at least it should be.
World requires radical new economic models to fight poverty and mitigate global warming
(11/30/2009) A new report calls for a radical re-envisioning of current economic models in order to tackle poverty, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and solve other environmental problems. The report was crafted by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and was supported by The Working Group on Climate Change and Development, which includes a wide variety of well-known groups, including environmental, religious, and anti-poverty organizations.
What would the Dalai Lama do?: spiritual leader speaks out on climate change
(11/30/2009) The Dalai Lama has given up taking baths in favor of showers and makes certain all lights are off when he leaves a room to help lower his carbon footprint, he told a crowd of reporters in Sydney Australia today.
Guyana expedition finds biodiversity trove in area slated for oil and gas development, an interview with Robert Pickles
(11/29/2009) An expedition deep into Guyana's rainforest interior to find the endangered giant river otter—and collect their scat for genetic analysis—uncovered much more than even this endangered charismatic species. "Visiting the Rewa Head felt like we were walking in the footsteps of Wallace and Bates, seeing South America with its natural density of wild animals as it would have appeared 150 years ago," expedition member Robert Pickles said to Mongabay.com.
In midst of poaching crisis, illegal rhino horn tops gold
(11/25/2009) Rhino poaching has hit a fifteen-year high, and the rising price for black-market rhino horn is likely the reason why. For the first time in a decade rhino horn is worth more than gold: a kilo of rhino horn is worth approximately 60,000 US dollars while gold is a little over 40,600 US dollars.
Deforestation emissions should be shared between producer and consumer, argues study
(11/19/2009) Under the Kyoto Protocol the nation that produces carbon emission takes responsibility for them, but what about when the country is producing carbon-intensive goods for consumer demand beyond its borders? For example while China is now the world's highest carbon emitter, 50 percent of its growth over the last year was due to producing goods for wealthy countries like the EU and the United States which have, in a sense, outsourced their manufacturing emissions to China. A new study in Environmental Research Letters presents a possible model for making certain that both producer and consumer share responsibility for emissions in an area so far neglected by studies of this kind: deforestation and land-use change.
Oil palm workers still below poverty line, despite Minister's statements
(11/19/2009) On October 19th, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told parliament that oil palm harvesters and rubber tappers are living above Malaysia's national poverty line, according to a story in the Malaysian Insider. But now representatives of the workers are saying Dompok lied.
Record year for CO2 emissions, even with economic slowdown
(11/17/2009) 8.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide was emitted into the earth's atmosphere in 2008, a growth of 2 percent despite the economic crisis. This averages out to each person contributing a record high of 1.3 tons of carbon, according to a report in the journal Nature Science. While the global recession slowed the growth of fossil fuel emissions for the first time this decade, it did not lower emissions altogether.
New rating systems seeks to promote sustainable landscapes from shopping malls to city parks
(11/15/2009) The Sustainable Sites Initiative has developed the United States' first rating system for the design, construction, and on-going maintenance of a wide-variety of landscapes, both with and without buildings, including shopping malls, subdivisions, university campuses, corporate buildings, transportation centers, parks and other recreation areas, and single-family homes.
Countries that invest in conservation will see higher financial returns, argues report
(11/13/2009) A new report issued by the The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative makes a strong case for valuing the planet's ecosystem services. The report calls for investments in "ecological infrastructure" to protect wildlands and the services they provide; market-based valuation of ecosystem services; reductions in environmentally harmful subsidies; recognition of the link between environmental degradation and poverty; and a strong climate deal that includes forest carbon.
Costa Rica proposes to downgrade Las Baulas National Park, threatening leatherback sea turtles
(11/11/2009) Costa Rica is considered by many to be a shining example of environmental stewardship, preserving both its terrestrial and marine biodiversity while benefiting from being a popular tourist location. However, a new move by the Costa Rican government has placed their reputation in question. In May of this year the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, presented a law to the legislature that would downgrade Las Baulas from a National Park to a 'mixed property wildlife refuge'. The downgrading would authorize a number of development projects that conservationists say would threaten the park's starring resident: the leatherback turtle.
Nations vulnerable to global warming present demands: carbon levels below 350ppm and billions in aid
(11/10/2009) A group of nations especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change have released a declaration calling for developed countries to keep CO2 emission below 350 parts per million (ppm) and to give 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product to aid developing nations in adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change.
Fossil fuel subsidies "bringing us closer to irreversible climate change"
(11/06/2009) The Green Economy Coalition is urging G20 finance ministers to rapidly put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a letter to the ministers the coalition argues that these subsidies are contributing directly to climate change and making it difficult for the world to transition to a greener economy.
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